Young people don’t vote. Or, at least, the vast majority of them seem to be allergic to the ballot box. For example, turnout amongst young voters (18-24) in the 2014 European elections was a scant 28%. Contrast that with turnout among people aged 55+, over half of whom (51%) cast their ballots in 2014, and it’s clear that youth participation in European elections is not great.
No, the problem is not just with EU elections. Youth turnout in national elections can also be appallingly low. There are exceptions, of course, and in some countries, such as France and Poland, young people are just as likely (or even more likely) than older voters to participate. In general, however, young people seem less likely to vote than any other group of citizens. Why is that? And how can we encourage better youth participation in politics?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from David, arguing that it was absolutely critical that young people get more involved in European politics: “Young people are consistently shown as the most pro-European – without their involvement in Europe’s present, the EU has no future… [Yet] for young people, sadly EU politics seems distant and there is an unclear link with their daily lives.”
How would YOU get more young people involved in politics? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!
I think that to involve young people in politics they first of all must have a say. And we can see that during the [July 2015] Greek referendum there was a high turnout from young voters. But if basically EU politics is telling young people ‘We don’t care about your future. We don’t care about your opinion’, as they did with the Greek referendum, then people will say: “Why should I even go to vote?”
So, the basic prinicple to involve young people is they must feel they have control of their future. And if the EU institutions take away the control of their future, and take away their very future, people will not turn up to vote because they feel it’s useless.
I think one of the things that engaged me in politics from the start was to see a clear alternative. And one of the things that European politics has so far been lacking is these alternatives and faultlines, not along national borders but rather in terms of politics, beliefs, and values. So, voters need to really see a difference between what social democrats, conservatives, green, or liberals are doing in the European Parliament.
I think one of the biggest challenges for us as politicians is to create these kind of arenas and have these controversial debates, but at the same time to have a media that is covering this. And just to give one example where I believe German media has recently failed to create this space was by not broadcasting the State of the Union speech by [European Commission President] Jean-Claude Juncker. Regardless of whether I agree or not with the speech politically, not putting it on mainstream media was a problematic decision. So, I believe the media has a very important part to play here.
Laura Ferrara (EFD), Member of the European Parliament:
The answer is to give to each citizen the effective power to participate in the decision-making process, applying the principle of direct democracy through the means offered by the Internet and the other Information Technologies. The Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Stars Movement), to which I belong, is strongly committed to applying the principles of E-Democracy, and the results are clear as day: we are, in Italy, the youngest political movement ever, and we are also the youngest delegation both in the National and in the European Parliament.